After a streak of 10 straight losses for Fairfield men’s basketball, the Stags finally added a game to the win column. The Stags defeated the St. Peter’s Peacocks by a score of 57-43. Guard Tyler Nelson ‘18 erupted for his career-high with 26 points and five rebounds.
“He’s been an awesome kid to coach, he plays the right way,” said head coach Sydney Johnson. “He’s good, number one; [He] plays the right way [and is] extremely coachable. He’s just a fantastic kid and we’re looking forward to the next three years with him.”
Before the beginning of the game, as part of Senior Day, guard Steve Johnston ‘15 was honored for his hard work and dedication throughout his career as a Stag.
Along with his teammates, Johnston took the court one final time to conclude his career at Webster Bank Arena. Both teams started the game aggressively and looked to move the ball. Through the first minutes of the game, both defenses were showing physicality and hustle. The Stags made it a priority to limit shots in the paint by defending the ball well and preventing any inside looks. The Stags struggled to score early in the game, but were able to draw fouls and shoot from the free throw line to keep the game close. They finished the half making nine out of 11 shots from the line.
“Everybody in the league knows [we’ve been] struggling to score, so if we can get free throws and easier opportunities then it helps us out. There’s no mystery we haven’t scored as many points as we liked and free throws helped us today,” said Johnson.
Although the Stags did a great job on defense, St. Peter’s was finding ways to knock down three-pointers as they finished the half with four, three more than Fairfield. As the half rolled on and the game continued closely, Mike Kirkland Jr. ‘16 got hot. He would constantly get into position and convert in the paint. He also added a couple of shots from mid-range. Kirkland led all scorers at the half with nine points.
“Mike has shown some things, especially in conference play, where he’s a standout player,” said Johnson.” I think he was up for the challenge. He got going – great body language out of him – and we just continued to try to add things to his plate, in terms of low post scoring and passing, and he’s been doing all that.”
Fairfield finished the half strong, leading 27-26.
At the start of the second half, the Stags continued to push the ball offensively and contest all shots out of the hands off St. Peter’s. On defense, Malcolm Gilbert ‘15 came off the bench to contribute. Gilbert blocked five shots in the second half and was a vital reason as to why St. Peter’s struggled to score.
“Awesome. Just awesome. He just wiped out so many shots,” said Johnson of Gilbert’s play.
The home team increased their lead behind the stellar play of Nelson who added 19 points in the second half, including three shots from behind the three-point arc. Fairfield finished the half on a 7-0 run, where St. Peter’s failed to score in the final minutes. The Stags scoring outburst in the second half followed by great defense led them towards victory as the Stags took the win.
After an important victory for the Stags, Johnson said, “It’s huge. We’re in this to compete and win. For the most part, we’ve been competing, but we haven’t won enough games. I hate losing, I hate it. Finally winning and having that pay off for us is a really good feeling and something we can build on certainly when we head to Buffalo.”
The Stags hit the road to finish off the season against Canisius and Niagara.